Let’s talk baby! Could your baby’s babbling shape the way you speak?

By Eve Bandusena | Parents Avenue Staff Writer | Images Courtesy of Freepik

Baby babblings are quite possibly the cutest thing in the world. There’s nothing more joyful than seeing your little one-piece together the world around them by connecting feelings, objects, colors, shapes, and people. The first and coo’s and sighs to the eventual mama and dada are linguistical milestones celebrated by every parent. 

However! Are these baby babblings are as nonsensical as they seem? Apparently not. 

A study supported by the National Science Foundation, researchers from Cornell University’s Behavioral Analysis of Beginning Years (B.A.B.Y) Laboratory found out that there’s more to it than that. The research revealed that baby babblings influence how parents speak to them which suggests that babies are shaping their learning environments.

Yep! You read that right.

The team of researchers established that adults unconsciously readjust and realter their speech patterns to contain fewer unique words, briefer sentences, and more one-worded replies when addressing their baby’s babbling.

“Infants are shaping their learning environments in ways that make learning easier to do,” said Steven Elmlinger, lead author of “The Ecology of Prelinguistic Vocal Learning: Parents Simplify the Structure of Their Speech in Response to Babbling.” 

“We know that parents’ speech influences how infants learn – that makes sense – and that infants’ motivations also change how they learn. But what hasn’t been studied is the link between how infants can change the parents, or just change the learning environment as a whole. That’s what we’re trying to do.”

For the study, 30 mothers-infant pairs were invited in the lab’s play space with an average of 30 minutes for two successive days. Babies that were aged 9 and 10 months old were allowed to wander about the play space filled with toys, a toy box, and animal posters. Hidden wireless microphones were attached to the babies’ overalls to record their speech and videotaped three remote-controlled digital video cameras.

From then on, researches gauged the parent’s use of vocabulary, syntax and evaluated the change in babies’ vocal maturity for the first and second days. 

The findings founded that babies’ whose mothers supplied more learning possibilities by using plainer speech and fewer unique words including shorter statements overall learned faster new speech compared to their compared to their counterparts.

Want to further encourage your baby’s babbling while having fun? Here are a few great tips from What To Expect:

  • Give your baby a toy and talk about it. “Dog! This is a purple dog. Woof woof.”
  • Make eye contact with your baby while he’s having a “conversation” with you. When he babbles, look him in the eyes, smile and respond.
  • Imitate your baby’s babbling. 
  • If you hear him imitating a sound that you make, say it again — and again. Repetition may seem simple and silly to you, but it’s really exciting for your baby: It encourages his vocalization practice while also teaching him that sounds aren’t just fun to make, they’re also ways to communicate. 
  • Ask lots of questions (“Should we walk to the park or the library?” “Do you think Grandpa would like this cake with roses on it or this one with the balloons?”). Then follow up with an answer (“Yes, I think Grandma would like these pretty roses”). Yes, Mom, you’re talking to yourself, but you’re also modeling the give-and-take of conversation.
  • Stumped for a topic of conversation? Just tell your baby what you (and she) are doing. “Mommy is putting on Kelly’s coat — clip, clip! — to keep Kelly nice and warm. Now let’s put on a cozy scarf and — one, two — mittens!” She doesn’t know what you’re saying now, but she will soon!
  • What’s that noise? Point it out to your baby — “Listen, a kitty is purring!” or “I hear a car going zoom, zoom down the road.” This is great practice for the toddler and preschool years when you’ll want her to have good “listening ears” — that is, ears that both hear, and heed, your rules.
  • Read, read and read some more. Books are a super source of new words for a baby. Try nursery rhymes, sturdy board books even whatever’s on your nightstand (Hey, reading to your baby may be the only chance you get to dig into a novel, so go for it!).

Disclaimer: This article is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any diseases. At Parents Avenue, we strongly recommend all our readers to seek medical advise from your local hospital or clinic. Thank you. 

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